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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: Safety first


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, June 21, 2017   /   08:20 am
EDITORIAL: Safety first Hundreds of travelers stuck in traffic in the Nagreg-Pamucatan road after the Nagreg ring road which serves as the main access for travelers heading to Bandung from Central Java, Garut and Tasikmalaya on July 10, 2016. (JP/Arya Dipa)

About 29 million people will be traveling to their hometowns starting early this week to celebrate the Idul Fitri holidays, a 6.8 percent increase over last year’s 26.36 million. Of that figure, 19 million are using public transportation.

For many, especially those working far from home, going home for Idul Fitri is necessary not only to reunite with parents, but most importantly to ask for their forgiveness.

A healthier economy and better intercity connectivity have triggered an increase in the number of travelers. This definitely causes a headache for the government to make sure that the exodus is less troublesome.

The Transportation Ministry records that out of the 29 million people, some 6 million will use motorcycles, a slight difference from the 5.4 million who prefer to fly. The rest are using buses, private cars, ferries and trains.

Despite controversy about the safety of long-distance journeys on motorcycles, as well as the government’s attempt to persuade people to opt for safer modes of transportation, for many, motorcycles are the only choice.

The police have warned motorcyclists of the high number of traffic accidents.

Some ministries and private companies even encourage motorcyclists to send their motorbikes ahead of them free of charge because of safety concerns.

People argue they need their motorcycles to travel in their hometowns from one family to another and they are cheaper than other transportation services. Toll roads make trips easier for private car users and bus passengers.

However, the government must learn from last year’s so-called Brexit tragedy when heat and severe congestion in the Brebes exit toll gate caused at least a dozen people to die from exhaustion.

As the Transportation Ministry estimates that the number of cars will total almost 3.5 million, a half million higher than last year, the police, relevant ministries, local administrations, toll road operators and the military must work hand-in-hand to avoid a similar disaster.

The Public Works and Public Housing Ministry has sped up completion of the remaining section of the Pantura (northern coast) toll road connecting Pejagan and Semarang, which is 145 kilometers long, so that it will be ready for the exodus.

Pertamina has ensured the public that fuel supplies — especially during the exodus peak time — will not be disrupted despite fears that the strike on Monday involving thousands of tanker truck drivers would continue to affect operations around the holiday. Workers are mainly demanding permanent employee status.

Going home for Idul Fitri is not only about chaotic traffic along the Pantura. Like it or not, these travelers boost the economies along the road and especially in their hometowns. After working hard in cities where they live, they are willing to spend a lot back home. As a tradition, it is impossible to ban these people from (homecoming).

As Idul Fitri is approaching, travelers should pay more attention to road safety so that they can reach home and gather with families. After all, that is the main goal of homecoming.